How To Stand Up Straight in a World That Sits
6 Surprising Health Benefits of Standing Up Straight in a World That Sits
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
July 24th, 2019
Did you ever hear “stop slouching,” or “stand up straight,” as a kid? Even though it may have seemed like nagging at the time, it was more than likely said to you with good intention. But, now that you’re older, you're probably not getting these same reminders to stand up straight.
Well, consider this your friendly reminder to stand up straight.
From looking and feeling better to less back pain and more energy, standing up straight is a simple change you can make that benefits you in many ways. Unfortunately, today’s modern lifestyle is seriously affecting the way we’re standing, leading to posture issues and all kinds of misalignment.
Yet there’s a simple fix – practicing good posture and standing up straight. And this simple fix goes a long way in setting you on the right path toward better health. Read on to learn more about how your body is impacted by the way you stand, the benefits of standing correctly, and a very helpful exercise I hope encourages you to stand up straight in a way that promotes whole-body health.
Your Whole Body Is Impacted by the Way You Stand
Everything is impacted, including all of the systems in your body, simply by the way you position yourself. Mobility issues are one of the health problems we’re facing in today’s society, and, unfortunately, it’s a problem I see all too often as a physical therapist.
As we age, mobility issues lead to falls and fractured hips among other escalating frailties. And, sadly, statistics tell us mortality risk goes up dramatically, for example, after a fractured hip.1
But here’s the good news, learning how to stand up straight can help you reduce your chance of having to deal with mobility issues. And it affects other areas of your health in a positive way as well.
6 Benefits of Standing Up Straight
We’re always looking for ways to improve our health, and one of my first tips is to start with standing up straight.
This way you give yourself a small win and start feeling better immediately. But it's really just the beginning of your journey towards better health. And, speaking of better health, here are six benefits of standing up straight.
Brings your awareness back to your body
If you’ve stood poorly for a long time, you’ll have to focus on how you’re standing in order to do it correctly – at least at first. The benefit of this is it brings your awareness back to your body.
We live in a world full of distractions, and how we stand isn’t usually on most of our minds. Oftentimes we’re distracted by so many other things like our smartphones and computers. Not only does it zap our attention, but it’s putting our bodies in unnatural positions.
You’re usually looking down at your smartphone or computer with your neck jutting forward giving you “tech neck.” Your shoulders are hunched and you may be leaning to one side with one foot in front of the other. These misalignments continue up to your knees and hips. And your pelvis shifts to one side making your spine compress unnaturally.
These misalignments are very common in today’s society. And, when we do them all the time as a lifestyle habit, we’re eventually left with pain. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to be in these positions all the time, and they start to impact our physiology in a negative way.
Reduces your time sitting
More time standing equals less time sitting. It’s an obvious one, but I still want to point it out. Our sedentary lifestyles have adapted our bodies to a sitting position, and standing is a simple way to break out of the sitting mold.
When we sit too much, too often we create whole body tension. Our knees are flexed. Our hips are flexed. Our spine is typically slouched because we sit so poorly. Our ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles become molded to this sitting position. And this makes it even more challenging to stand up straight.
We think we’re relaxing and decompressing when, in reality, we’re not decompressing at all. In fact, we’re doing the opposite – creating even more tension in our bodies.
Reduces pain and tension in your body
As you read above, sitting creates a lot of tension in our bodies. Unfortunately, standing incorrectly can do the same. That’s why when you stand and do it correctly, you help your body align the way it's supposed to and strengthen your muscles. This helps to reduce overall body tension and relieve pain.
A recent study with sedentary office workers who usually sit all day shows that neck and back pain were significantly reduced simply by having them stand for part of their workday.2
Makes you less stressed
You might not realize the connection, but your posture and the way you position your body impacts your hormones also. Hormones, like testosterone and cortisol, send biochemical signals to your brain regulating everything in your body.3
When you slouch, you make your body work harder, creating stress – your testosterone goes down and your cortisol goes up. In contrast, when you stand up straight you’re putting yourself in a more powerful position. And the opposite happens – your testosterone goes up and your cortisol goes down.
Lowers your risk of heart disease
Another benefit of standing you might be surprised to learn is heart health. A lot of studies look at the benefits of movement like walking, but simply standing has its many benefits as well.
A recent study by the European Society of Cardiology wanted to look specifically at the health benefits of standing and found several. They found that it promotes a healthy weight by impacting your body mass index and waist circumference. And it helps regulate your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.4 All of this adds up to a lower risk of heart disease.
Helps you look and feel more confident
Standing up straight is such a quick easy thing you can do to improve your appearance. Slouching and standing with your shoulders hunched forward can make you look timid and closed off.
But when you stand more powerfully and firm, you feel more self-assured, and you appear more confident and approachable. So you’re not only affecting the way you see yourself but how others see you.
How you project yourself to others is important. And feeling accepted by others matters to all of us. It impacts your mood and emotional health.
Alright, now that you know why it’s so important to stand up straight and the benefits, let's talk about the steps you can take to stand up correctly.
Here’s an Easy Exercise to Stand Up Straight
The first thing you want to do whenever you’re standing is to make sure your feet are pointing forward. You don’t want to have one or both feet pointing outward – you always want both feet pointing forward.
Next, make sure your legs are no wider than hip-width apart, with each leg positioned directly under each hip. This is important because it centers your body and best aligns it with gravity.
Create stability in your legs, knees, and pelvis with this easy exercise:
- Screw your feet into the ground
Here’s what it looks like. First, imagine your feet are on paper plates. I want you to think about spinning your feet on the paper plates – imagine spinning them outwards. Sort of like you’re screwing your feet into the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes
Then, squeeze your glutes. You’re going to notice your hips will automatically activate when you do this. This is because you’re externally rotating the muscles in your hips and activating your glutes. It’s stabilizing your pelvis and putting you in a better position.
- Brace your core
Next, brace your core. Think of someone about to punch you in the stomach – you’d brace your core.
- Bring your hands to your chest
Now, bring your hands to your chest and lace your fingers together with your elbows out to the side. Stand as tall as possible. Then, let your hands go to each side.
- Gently contract your body
Try this exercise again, but this time I want you to fully contract your body – 100%:
- Screw your feet into the ground
- Squeeze your glutes
- Brace your core
- Bring your hands to your chest with your fingers laced together and elbows back
- Contract – squeeze everything as hard as you can
Now, don’t fully relax. Instead, back off the contraction until you’re at about 20%. This is where you want to live – with a 20% contraction anytime you’re standing still. This slight contraction helps you feel better and aligns your body.
You want to repeat these steps whenever you’re standing.
Are You Inspired to Stand Up Straight?
Go ahead and make standing this way part of your daily life. By standing up straight in a world that sits and is overly distracted, you’ll make a huge impact on yourself and everyone around you.
Remember, our goal here at NativePath is to get you back to vibrant health and feeling your absolute best with small wins you can easily do – things that are more in line with your body and how it’s designed to function.
It’s one of the reasons I created the Native Body Reset. I took my best techniques from two decades of helping men and women find relief from pain and created a program designed to relieve discomfort through improving core strength and full-body mobility.
If you’re struggling with back, neck, shoulder, or hip pain or want to learn more about how our bodies are designed to move, then the Native Body Reset is for you.
And for more tips on how to improve your health by improving the way you move, sign-up for my newsletter. It’s where you’ll get all my insider tips on healthy living!